HYÈRES, France — It felt like a Davos for fashion under the sun of Hyères on the French Riviera, where the heads of fashion’s governing bodies from four capitals met on Sunday. The meeting coincided with the 31st edition of the International Fashion and Photography Festival, which ends today.
The invitation came from Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération Française de la Couture, du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, and Pascal Morand, the federation’s executive president.
In attendance were Steven Kolb, CFDA’s president and chief executive officer; Caroline Rush, ceo of the British Fashion Council, and Carlo Capasa, president of the Italian Chamber of Fashion. It marked the first time the leaders of the industry’s four fashion federations had met all together. Topics on the agenda included digital, sustainability, education and the future of men’s and women’s fashion shows.
There have been intense discussions in the last few months around the concept of consumer-facing fashion shows and whether the four cities should maintain the existing formula — with runway shows taking place a season before collections are sold at retail — and whether men’s and women’s shows will be combined.
“Fashion is a big family,” said Toledano, before adding: “It’s evolving. Talking and exchanging ideas is very important. It’s not to decide whatever — our bodies don’t decide, I don’t think any of us can pretend we do — but we can make the link with the houses in order to evolve organically.
“By meeting regularly — preferably where there’s sunshine — we hope we can make progress,” Toledano noted.
Asked how often they plan to meet in future, Capasa joked: “We were thinking of taking an apartment together.”
“And we’ll do a reality show,” added Kolb.
“I think the conclusions of the CFDA make a lot of sense,” said Toledano, referring to a recent Boston Consulting Group study ordered by the CFDA that after weeks of study concluded that each designer company should decide for itself what works best for that particular brand. “Everybody should do what’s best for them. Of course, there should be some coordination; otherwise it will create a mess. [The discussions] started with an initiative [Burberry]. What we see after a few months is that there’s nearly a consensus.”
“We have to pay respect to everybody. The core of the logistics is making sure everyone can be at the show they want to be at,” said Kolb.
“We are trying to make everybody part of a system and whatever they show, that it will be shown during fashion week,” said Capasa. He noted that Gucci recently said that it would show its men’s and women’s collections together in 2017. “[Gucci ceo] Marco Bizzarri said the image of the collection is very genderless and because of that, it’s complicated for them to separate the two. It’s a choice that comes from a specific peculiarity of a brand. It may not work for another brand.”
“Every company is different from another,” echoed Toledano. “You have to find the right balance between individual perspectives and the strength of the community.”
“We have to pay close attention to what the impact of that shift will be — whether men’s and women’s collections are combined or someone switches to a consumer show. Was it a positive change? Did it change your sales? Did it upset the buyers and the editors? And really being able to look at the specifics of the results and sharing them,” said Kolb.
“Also by looking at the drivers for these changes, that’s where we can share what the brands are looking for and addressing these drivers in a different way,” said Rush.
Morand stressed the importance of fashion weeks: “The more digital makes strides, the more important the physical experience is,” he said.
On Saturday night, they all attended a dinner hosted by the French Federation at La Bastide restaurant in Hyères, where Toledano paid tribute to his predecessor Didier Grumbach, who 15 years ago launched panel discussions on the future of fashion at the festival.